What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?

L. Whitaker

Borderline personality disorder is a condition that is most commonly diagnosed by the presence of several symptoms related to an individual's impulsive behaviors, relationship patterns and self-perception. Symptoms of impulsiveness related to borderline personality disorder might include behaviors that potentially are self-harming. A person with this disorder usually will have a personal history of unstable relationships. He or she might experience a shifting self-image that is easily influenced by external events. The symptoms of borderline personality disorder affect every aspect of the individual's life, including work or school functioning and interpersonal relationships.

Someone with borderline personality disorder may express anger inappropriately.
Someone with borderline personality disorder may express anger inappropriately.

One of the most common symptoms is a pattern of rocky interpersonal relationships. An individual with this disorder might experience a rapidly changing view of significant others. Lacking the ability to view others in shades of gray, the individual initially might believe a new acquaintance to be perfect but later see the same person as unworthy. Fear of being alone can lead the individual to cling inappropriately to others. Conversely, he or she might adopt a rejecting attitude in an attempt to preempt possible abandonment.

People with borderline personality disorder sometimes experience difficulty coping with day-to-day functioning.
People with borderline personality disorder sometimes experience difficulty coping with day-to-day functioning.

Impulsive and potentially self-injurious behavior is another of the most common symptoms of borderline personality disorder. A person with this disorder might frequently engage in risky behaviors that could lead to physical harm or other serious consequences, such as reckless driving, going on gambling sprees or having unprotected sex. Impulsiveness also might manifest as a tendency to express anger inappropriately, which could negatively affect social interactions or even lead to physical fights. These impulsive behaviors might become more severe in less structured settings.

Another common symptom of borderline personality disorder is frequent change in the individual's sense of personal identity. The person might over-identify with significant others because of an inability to define his or her own values, goals and preferences. Instability of self-concept can lead to numerous disruptions in work life and personal relationships. Low self-esteem might also occur in relation to the individual's undefined sense of self.

Typically, the symptoms of borderline personality disorder become apparent by early adulthood. A diagnosis of borderline personality disorder requires the ongoing presence of at least five symptoms that have a severe impact on daily functioning. The symptoms of borderline personality disorder must be distinguished from the effects of a medical condition or medications.

Borderline personality disorder sometimes might be confused with other types of personality disorders, such as histrionic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder. In addition, borderline personality disorder frequently occurs along with other mental health problems, including mood disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Personality disorders generally are diagnosed by a psychiatrist or other mental health professional with specialized training. General practitioners or family doctors typically do not have the appropriate background to accurately diagnose or treat borderline personality disorder.

A doctor can prescribe medication and deliver psychological therapy for borderline personality disorder if necessary.
A doctor can prescribe medication and deliver psychological therapy for borderline personality disorder if necessary.

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Discussion Comments


SauteePan - That is right. I wanted to add that Med Help. Org offers online forums for people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

There are also sections in which you can ask an expert a question regarding the treatment or diagnosis of the disorder.

Talking to others and seeking support groups for people with this disorder is essential because only people that suffer from the condition can truly understand the issues associated with it.

Many people with this condition feel that their emotions are real but often other people invalidate their feelings because they blame it on the disorder. This is why therapy and support groups are important so that you can relate to people that understand your condition.


Cafe41 - I know that the treatment of borderline personality disorder involves two specific forms of psychotherapy.

The DBT or dialectical behavioral therapy and TFP which stands for transference-focused psychotherapy are two approaches that help treat patients with a borderline personality disorder diagnosis.

DBT teaches the patient ways to control their emotions and feelings so that they can deal more effectively with relationships and stress.

TFP uses the model of the therapist and the patient’s relationship in order to help the patient understand their inner conflicts by reflecting what is going on in the therapeutic relationship.

This form of therapy is very effective for those seeking borderline personality disorder treatment. In addition, patients may also take anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs to enhance the treatment.

It is important that people with this disorder not be ashamed of their problem because a lot of people have this condition and seeking help is the only way it will get better.


I just wanted to say that I recently read that the causes of borderline personality disorder lie in genetic factors especially if a parent was diagnosed with the problem.

It also can develop in people that suffered abuse and even abandonment in childhood. According to the Mayo Clinic people that receive a borderline personality disorder diagnosis may also be prone to manic depression, anxiety, addiction to drugs and alcohol, and even eating disorders.

The use of the DSM testing model determines the diagnosis. Usually symptoms of borderline personality disorder in children are not diagnosed because many children that demonstrate some of the signs of the disorder as children grow out of it when they reach adulthood.

If the symptoms are still present at adulthood then the diagnosis is more definitive.

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